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Posts from April, 2018


6 Can’t-Miss Tools for Innovative Presentations

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

It’s easy to grow jaded about presentation software. After all, each new version of PowerPoint and Keynote may feel like the equivalent of the same old room getting a new coat of paint. However, new tools and apps offer all sorts of fresh and clever ways to make better presentations. Encourage your employees to experiment with the following six tools in 2018 and see where they take you.

1. Collaborate with Google Slides

Google Slides may not offer PowerPoint- and Keynote-level features, but it’s free, widely supported and cloud-based. If you’re working on a presentation as a part of a team it’s easy to use Google Slides to work together. The program updates itself online in real time, so if one person on the team makes a change to a slide, the rest of the team will see it immediately if they are also working on the presentation. Google Slides also features automatic saving.

Additionally, your staff can use Google Slides as a tool to create a first draft of a presentation. When the draft is done, one employee can transfer the slideshow to another more capable program for revisions.

2. Exchange Ideas with SlideShare

LinkedIn SlideShare is like a social network for slideshows.

As long as the presentation doesn’t include confidential information, your staff can showcase their work and get feedback from other presentation experts.

Additionally, your staff can take a passive role in the social network: You can use it to look at other presentations from people across the world for inspiration on how to make a better presentation. SlideShare offers expert-taught presentation courses as well.

3. Dump Dated Software for Slidebean

Slidebean is a popular alternative presentation program that’s built to create stunning presentations with minimal effort from the content creator. Slidebean is a cloud-based app much like a premium version Google Slides and offers seamless online collaboration. It’s built to work on just about any device that supports a web browser.

4. Make a Non-Linear Presentation With Prezi

Prezi is an excellent tool for presentations during which the presenter interacts with the audience and adjusts points based on the discussion. It’s excellent for non-linear presentations as well as Q&A-style conferences. It can also be a helpful visual aid for a Q&A session after another presentation.

5. Present From Your Tablet or Phone with ApowerMirror

ApowerMirror is an application that streams a presentation from an Android or iOS device onto a computer. This tool can be very helpful for presenters who prefer the freedom of being able to move around and control their presentation with a smart device rather than a clicker. It’s also helpful for making sure that all the necessary media files are accessible for the presentation because it can access the device’s storage.

6. Generate Website-Based Timelines with TimelineJS

TimelineJS is a handy tool for presenters who want to produce a timeline with relative ease.

The tool quickly generates a timeline for display on a website from data entered into a Google spreadsheet template.

Presenters can display the timeline through any web browser to guide a presentation outside of a slides program.

Empower your productive staff to become even more productive with the right tools at your disposal. The IT consulting experts at MPA Networks can help your business identify and utilize new apps and tools to increase productivity well beyond your greatest expectations. Contact us today to learn more.

What Changes in Net Neutrality Could Mean for Your SMB

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

The FCC net neutrality 3–2 repeal vote of December 2017 could lead to major concerns for IT staff at small and medium businesses. As of February 2018, the FCC is continuing to move toward the net neutrality repeal, but actual business changes will take a while to go into practice. That delay means IT staff is left with more questions about what’s going to happen rather than solid information on what will happen.

Understanding the Public Protests and FCC Defense

Opponents argue that the repeal allows services providers to create premium paid “fast lanes” that will give the paying customers a leg up on the competition when it comes to how quickly their content travels over the internet.

While big businesses can afford to pony up for fast lane service, SMBs will be less likely to afford the advantage.

Service providers say they just don’t want to be treated like a utility akin to gas, electric and phone service providers. Additionally, service providers argue the “fast lane” concept would be a step-up deal and wouldn’t mean slowing down speeds for non-paying businesses.

A lack of competition means that customers who are dissatisfied with fast lane practices can’t simply take their business elsewhere. According to the FCC’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report, “Only 38 percent of Americans have more than one choice of providers for fixed advanced telecommunications capability.”

How Net Neutrality Changes Impact IT

As far as IT staff is concerned, net neutrality changes are related to internet performance. The rules could amplify existing concerns over how different services function and change some points of emphasis:

  • Customer-facing website and online application performance will be more important than ever. Businesses that aren’t paying for “fast lane” access will want to make sure their CDN is performing well and their platforms have efficient data footprints. Not paying for “fast lane” service could be considered a barrier to entry for new competitors.
  • Company website SEO could take a hit because longer load times on their sites mean more people will abandon the page load. Load time doesn’t play a role in search result rankings, but page abandonment does — and longer load times mean higher abandonment rates.
  • Growing SMBs that move a lot of data across the internet could be crushed by larger businesses entering the same space and paying for an ISP speed advantage.
  • IT staff will have to address unfair business complaints against service providers with the FTC rather than the FCC, which the Harvard Business Review argues is less equipped to protect consumers in those disputes.
  • “Fast lane” cloud services may be more appealing for business use, which means IT staff may be tasked with migration to other platforms.
  • Businesses may opt to change high-bandwidth services such as teleconferencing to competitors who are paying for “fast lane” performance, especially those who rely on those services to communicate with clients.
  • Cloud-based backups could run at less optimal speeds compared with the full potential of the internet package speed, which could mean more time between backups.
  • Location-to-location network traffic could run at less-than-optimal speed, which could turn into a problem down the line as the business moves increasing amounts of data.

The IT consulting experts at MPA Networks can help your business adjust to changes in net neutrality rules as they take effect. Contact us today to learn more.

Addressing the Unique IT Management Needs at Law Firms

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

Law firms face many unique IT management challenges that stem from the confidential nature of the information they work with. And that confidential data is why law firms must make the protection of information a key IT priority. Threats can come from outside (such as hackers using pressure to extort money from the firm) as well as inside (from technology failure). In order to adapt as threats change, it is important to understand both why law firms are prone to specific IT management challenges and how to address those challenges.

Why Are Law Firms a Prime Target for Ransomware?

As with other businesses, law firms must be ready for the growing number and scope of ransomware threats.

Hackers see law firms as ideal targets because lawyers may opt to pay the ransom to recover information for a case with an immediate court date.

Additionally, hackers may seek to exploit a larger law firm’s substantial financial backing to get an easy payday: A $300 ransom is worth much more to an individual than it is to a large firm. The 2017 ransomware attack against prominent global law firm DLA Piper demonstrates how serious these attacks can be.

Law Firms Are Vulnerable to Data Theft

While technology automates a great deal of law firms’ work, it also brings additional risks for information theft. The 2017 Equifax hack demonstrates exactly how far-reaching damage can be when hackers steal personal information.

Law firms also need to be concerned about keeping confidential client information confidential. Hackers may try to steal information stored on servers or personal computers through malware attacks and software exploits.

What’s less obvious is how criminals can use social engineering — such as posing as a client via email or during a phone conversation — to get law firms to give up confidential information.

External and Internal Data Loss

Law firms work with a substantial amount of information that can go missing due to both external and internal factors. For example, a firm’s server or an employee’s laptop may fail and lose all the data stored on the device. Additionally, employees may not always properly manage their documents and information, which makes them difficult to find. In fact, poor document management can cost a firm hours of productivity every week. IT management can help organize information through platforms such as a document management system to help minimize data loss related to human error.

Law Firm IT Management Solutions

While law firms face many unique IT challenges, businesses can take several steps to minimize risk and mitigate damage:

  • Implement a three-copy backup policy to safeguard against data loss related to ransomware, malware, device failure and human error.
  • Make sure that all software on all devices is up to date and running the latest version. Hackers tend to exploit user laziness by attacking security holes that could have been patched had the user not skipped an update.
  • Confirm that all information exchanges are secure. Don’t fall for social engineering schemes or use compromised public Wi-Fi networks.
  • Use document management systems to prevent losing data from mismanagement. These also serve as a type of backup.

If you would like to learn more about how your law firm can better manage its IT assets and protect itself from online threats, contact the IT experts at MPA Networks today.

Training Employees in Data Security Practices: Tips and Topics

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

While there’s plenty of technology available to keep your business’s data protected, the human element is still the most important piece to consider in safeguarding your company’s data. Properly training employees to understand and implement data security best practices works best when your business makes a cultural shift toward prioritizing IT security. Successfully training your staff is half about knowing how to train them and half about knowing which topics to train them on. Businesses that embrace a proactive approach to training employees on data security will have a much better track record than those that take a reactive approach.

Training Tips

Don’t just make a plan: Implement a program that focuses on training all employees. Have your business take an active role in implementing a data security program. This ensures training is far more effective than simply creating security practices, offering one-time training and hoping it works.

By implementing regular security training meetings on changing topics, your business can train your staff on a wide range of concerns.

In addition, your company can benefit from focused training while constantly reinforcing security as a priority. Hold multiple sessions that get into each topic in depth to help your employees better understand data security.

Training doesn’t end when the session ends — it’s an ongoing process. As an extension of training, your security staff should frequently send out reminders about security concerns to help employees remember what they’ve learned. Make your data security training materials easily accessible in the event staff members see a reminder and realize they should read up on a topic if they’re unclear of what the reminder is about. Additionally, C-level staff, IT and supervisors should lead by example.

Training Topics

The bad news is hackers will always create new threats for your staff to worry about — but the silver lining is that you’ll never run out of fresh topics to cover. Because of the fluidity of data security, your program will need to change which topics are covered in training and continually adjust strategy to address new threats. The following list covers just some of the many topics training sessions can cover:

  • Strong passwords and more secure authentication practices: This includes covering two-step authentication when applicable.
  • Secure Wi-Fi best practices: Explore red flags to look for when using public Wi-Fi and discuss whether public Wi-Fi should be used at all.
  • Physical device security: Cover topics such as encryption and disabling devices remotely to minimize data leaks for stolen/lost devices.
  • Use policy: Reaffirm that non-employees shouldn’t be using employee hardware.
  • Device security: Discuss the importance of keeping software patched and running security software on devices.
  • Popular methods of attack: Cover security best practices for avoiding popular phishing, man-in-the-middle and ransomware attacks.
  • Social engineering threats: Discuss the importance of the user as an essential line of defense when software can’t protect from threats.
  • Three-copy backup strategy: Explain that data is also at risk of being lost rather than stolen, and explore key backups to minimize these losses.

Hackers and thieves are known to exploit human complacency in security practices — and frequent training sessions will help employees stay aware. Is your business looking to improve its security practices? The IT consulting experts at MPA can help; contact us today to learn more.